Is there one perfect running shoe for you just waiting to be discovered amidst the colorful array on display in your local retailer? The answer may be that the best solution to keep you running is not one single pair, but a set of shoes that you rotate through from run to run. Just as you become more fit by adding variety to your runs, doing intervals one day, slow and steady the next, long runs on weekends, hills or track workouts on Tuesdays, adding variety in what’s under your feet can improve your running experience too.
Rotate To Strengthen
Our bodies are best at doing one thing: Adapting to the environment and the stresses we expose them to. For runners this means that our bodies adapt to the stress of running, becoming fit and strong. But… because running is so repetitive, it can occasionally overstress our bodies, especially when we increase training intensity. Every step loads the same tissues in the same way as the previous step. Running shoes can affect how the stress of running is distributed within the tissues of your body. By wearing different shoes on different days, you may avoid overloading any one muscle, tendon, bone, or ligament while simultaneously strengthening others.
Rotate To Recover
Another reason to rotate your shoes is that your body changes from day to day, especially if you vary your training intensity. The day after a hard run, your body may be less able to handle the forces generated during impact. Wearing a shoe that provides more cushioning can reduce stress on your legs that are still beat up from the previous day. Some runners find that on days when they’re fatigued, shoes with a little more added stability helps them feel better.
Rotate For Speed or Surface
Yet one more reason to mix up your running shoes has to do with the interaction between the mechanics of the body and the mechanics of the shoes. If you run at different speeds on different days, or on different surfaces (if you don’t do this, you should!), you may find that a shoe that feels just right at a training pace feels too mushy for intervals, or that the racing flat that works so well for a track workout just feels jarring when running more slowly on the run home. For many runners, a shoe that compresses more feels like it works better with their stride at slower paces, while a shoe that compresses less feels like it works better with their stride at faster paces.
While the concept of rotating running shoes isn’t new, it’s gained increased attention lately following the release of a study that found a relationship between running in multiple shoe models and reduced injury risk. See Runners World for a good discussion on the topic. Based on the work of these scientists, and the experience of many coaches and runners over the years, it’s clear that there are good functional reasons to not run in the same pair of shoes on every run. Mixing up your daily mileage, pace, route, and shoes can make you a stronger runner.
- Spencer White
Head of Saucony Human Performance and Innovation Lab